Teamfight Tactics and other Auto Chess-style games have the same problem as their originating MOBA counterparts: a knowledge barrier that demands you know what the many, many individual champions do and how they synergize with each other. This is especially pernicious when TFT has over 50 champions to account for. You’ll quickly get blown up as everybody else’s armies turn into all-powerful meat grinders if you jump in blind, with your piddly one-star wonders as the sausage-in-waiting.
Luckily, there are a number of key standouts already. Here are the champions to look for, and why you want them on your team.
1. Aurelion Sol
Though probably first up to bat for a nerf in the near future, Autocannon Sol will likely remain one of the best DPS options in Teamfight Tactics. The hitbox from Voice of Light can cover most of the field on its own, and its raw damage tears through all but the hardiest tanks—usually fellow Dragons or units heavily adorned with Negatron Cloaks to negate spell damage.
But that alone isn’t why he tops the list. Other champions have area-of-effect nukes too, like Karthus or Brand. No other such champion, however, has Sol’s oppressive synergies. The Sorceror class passive, generating extra mana per attack, couples nicely with any sort of attack speed buff, whether from a Wild support team or Recurve Bow, giving Sol ample opportunity to fire off his cannon again and again. He is easily one of the best carries to build around.
Though not necessarily built as a carry in her own right, Nidalee makes for a strong early pick that opens up a huge range of options. Unlike Graves, for instance, she actually has a decently long auto-attack range and a relevant early-game ability. She also serves as the foundation of any Wild-centric strategies, amping up her team’s attack speed to generate more mana and spells.
As attack speed is the single most important statistic in the game, determining how quickly and frequently game-winning spells will sling out, the Wild class in general often serves as the foundation of many teams. She will be a highly contested pick to start setting up the strategy.
All the reasons that Nidalee is good also apply to Gnar, minus early game presence due to his high rarity. Late game, however, he often serves as the all-important fourth unique Wild character, capstoning the team strategy.
And all that is fine, but what really pushes Gnar over the top is when he goes full Kaiju and pushes the entire enemy team around. That can either buy crucial time for your ranged carries to do their thing, or—in a feat of utter hilarity—dump the enemy army on top of Kennen’s Slicing Maelstrom.
Bouncing attacks are already solid when TFT armies tend to be closely clustered together, so the bouncing attacks of a roaring bear of a tank that occasionally freezes his targets is why you prioritize drafting Volibear.
On top of that, Glacial/Brawler is a hard-to-counter combination of classes. Volibear repeatedly disrupt enemy champions, mitigating their damage and slowing down their spells output. At the same time, stopping Volibear is harder when you have more than one Brawler in play due to their health-increasing synergy.
Knight champions are already tanky and hard to kill. It’s unfair if they can also carry! Darius is about as independent a force of nature as you can get with the game: it only takes one other Knight to mitigate all damage against him and he heals himself. You’re free to lavish him with all the damage and attack speed items you can cram into his arms, and it only gets more absurd if you get his brother Draven or other Noxians into play.
You know what’s better than stunning one enemy champion? Stunning all of them. Though her damage output pales in comparison to Volibear, there’s no denying that having your entire team locked down by Glacial Prison is extremely demoralizing.
With the highest attack speed in the game and the ability to repeatedly turn allied champions invincible, the only reason why Kayle isn’t rated higher is because of how rare she is and how late she shows up. As the clincher to a six-Noble strategy, however, she turns an already tanky team into an incredibly resilient one, capable of shrugging off even Aurelion Sol’s Godzilla breath blasts with ease.
Speaking of impossible-to-kill capstones, Swain is blasphemously good. Though he suffers the same relevance issue throughout most of the game (as in, he just ain’t there), he’s strong enough that it's worth preparing for him if you think you have a shot at snagging him. A combination of Imperial and Demon origin classes gives him a deadly double-dip in potential damage amplifiers, and the healing from Demonflare is nothing to sneeze at either. Watch the crow demon slide his way through the enemy ranks, and watch them all wither.
Whereas Swain gets up close and personal to devastate enemy ranks, Brand does the same from a safer distance. As Demons, both also amplify their respective damage with mana burn and true damage—and as an Elementalist, Brand shares the Sorcerer class’s ability to generate extra mana per attack. A few Recurve Bows, and the whole field’s on fire, just as Brand likes it.
AOE crowd control is generally a high priority, and Kennen’s Slicing Maelstrom has it in spades—with his own bonus damage if he’s the only ninja you’ve got in the team. Better yet, he answers a common problem with the game: how do you deal with assassins that bypass the front line and attack your ranged carries?
Well, if they all get stunned and melt apart instead, there isn’t a problem anymore, is there?
Kennen’s main problem is a lack of easy synergies. To really juice up his impact, you either need all four ninjas or no others at all. To take advantage of the Yordle origin class’s dodge passive, you need pretty much all of them, and they’re spread out among almost the entire range of rarities. The “easiest” option then becomes drafting other Elementalists, which does have the benefit of churning out more Slicing Maelstroms, but two of the four are in the upper rarities, making it hard to get a functioning set early on.